tv Dateline NBC KICU July 13, 2012 8:00pm-10:00pm PDT
girls' night out. >> kenya was bright, pretty, a dord dored by everyone. >> i felt like she was my twin. >> partying with friends. somehow she disappeared. >> they said, are you with kenya? i said, no, i thought she was with you. >> where was she? clues found on a surveillance tape and reports from witnesses. this one left for dead. was evil stalking young women? >> both dark hair, both pretty girls. it was chillingly similar. >> in the history of my department, that's never happened. >> and then finally, far from
the city, the truth revealed on a country road. >> he got out of the car and let out this scream. >> and an act of courage from a woman who refused to be a victim. >> and i won. >> she made her voice heard, and tonight we invite you to tell us what you're thinking with the debut of dateline chatline, a new web app that brings together your conversations on facebook and twitter, giving you a chance to chat with correspondent chet morrison live as the clues unfold. now, go inside "a deadly connection." >> welcome to "dateline," everyone. i'm lester holt. it's friday night, and someone love, maybe one of your kids, is heading out for some fun. a few worries? sure, about dating, driving, hook-ups. but the two women in this story found a very different kind of trouble. for each, the simple joys of a night out would lead to the most
confounding and terrifying of mysteries. here's keith morrison. >> reporter: the woman in the icu was barely alive. her jaw shattered from an attack. a once beautiful face, hardly recognizable after the brutal beating, the fire, the ball, the nearly massive fatal stroke. someone thought she would be dead. no. someone who fled into the night. someone killing women. and this one deep in a coma at the threshold of death is their only chance to catch him before he does it again. what happened here was spawned in a very dark corner of the human condition. by that terrifying flaw that forces us to admit, yes, virginia, there really is a b g
boogey man. and against him were the only weapons they had, the power of one family, a determined cop, and one remarkable gift in the face of evil. here's where it began three months before that scene in the icu. this is the nightclub district, denver, colorado. people here call this part of town lodo, short for lower downtown. very trendy. it was the night before april fool's day, a warm spring evening in denver. girls' night out. an attractive 19-year-old named kenya monja was on her way to lodo to party with some girlfriends. >> she was very kind, friendly, outgoing. just a happy person.
>> reporter: among the partiers, janet gomez, one kenya's closest friends. she loved to have fun. >> yeah, she loved to have fun. >> reporter: underage fun. no trouble sneaking in. they charmed the bouncers, flashed fake i.d.s. kenya and her crew had kind of an unwritten safety rule. go together and leave together. look out for each other. but on this particular night, things didn't go as planned. >> we had planned to meet at lavish. we went in there and she wasn't in there. >> reporter: kenya had gotten a ride downtown with two other girls she didn't know very well. her plan was to meet janet and some other friends at lavish, but she didn't show up. >> i started texting her and no response, and i called her three times. nothing. >> reporter: what janet didn't know is that kenya and the two other girls couldn't get in the club. the bouncers weren't buying
their fake i.d. cards. so they went to another club nearby, even took a few pictures. but they didn't tell anyone they were there. >> and i sent her the last message about 11:30 and nothing. >> reporter: so when the clubs closed, janet headed home without kenya, who she assumed was with some other friends. >> i thought, okay, they're probably just having fun. she'll call tomorrow. she would always call me in the morning. >> reporter: did you ever worry about her when she went out like that clubbing? >> she was very smart and everything. >> reporter: she wouldn't take chances? >> no. >> i want to say how i look. >> reporter: no, because though she loved to party, kenya was known as the responsible one, reliable, ambitious, hard-working, not flakey at all. she had recently graduated from one of colorado's top high schools, was now considering
careers in tv production or criminology. here she is directing a student film. all the more remarkable because just seven years earlier, kenya didn't know more than a word or two of english. and not a single person in denver. apart, that is, from her mother, maria, who had migrated from honduras a few years before. and when she and kenya were finally reunited -- >> it was a happy day in my life when i got to hold her. oh, my god. i was so happy. and we went home and i told her how much i missed her and she said, i missed you, too, mom. now we are together and nothing is going to separate us. >> reporter: by the time kenya came to colorado, maria was married to tony lee, and together they had two children. now kenya made three. >> i remember meeting her for the first time. the first words that she said to me were, thank you, daddy.
i'll never forget that as she hugged me. >> reporter: so connecting with the family took no time at all. >> i always thought about a song from "the brady bunch," how we all came together and became a family. it was pretty much that was kind of how it worked out. it clicked from day one. >> and there's all the girls, all the wonderful women in my life. >> thank you, daddy! >> reporter: and for kenya's little sister, kimberly, it felt like the best thing that ever happened. >> tomorrow kenya makes one whole year in america. >> i thought she was going to be like the big sister that everybody dreams of. it was even better than what i imagined. >> reporter: better? >> uh-huh. she was very loving and caring. i felt like she was my twin. we texted each other every day. every morning, every night, throughout school. she would call me sometimes. she would just want to say i love you. >> reporter: but she was independent, too, was kenya. after high school, she moved out to make it on her own.
>> she always wanted to be something big. she always wanted to be a ceo or something. that was her goal in life, was to be somebody. >> she came from having nothing to being somebody, and on one of her calendars it said, like, study, study, study, and then it says party on the last day. she was balancing her job and she was balancing school, and she was balancing, like, her party life. >> reporter: but on the morning of april fool's day, 2011, nothing was balanced. something was wrong. her friend janet gomez, desperate to hear from kenya, dove for her phone the moment it rang, but it wasn't kenya. it was another girlfriend. >> she was like, are you with kenya? and i said, no, i thought she was with you. and that's when it all started. >> reporter: started? oh, it had more than started for
kenya monja, swallowed up by whatever it was, some dark presence haunting the happy, tipsy streets of lodo. coming up, kenya's family starts to worry. had that dark presence, whatever it might be, come for their own daughter? >> that's when i went into high alert. >> reporter: when "deadly connection" continues. read something watch something and learn something. do it all more beautifully, with the retina display on ipad.
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and now she didn't answer her phone. not like kenya. not at all. >> we didn't know what happened. nobody knew nothing. >> reporter: kenya's friends truly frightened now kept texting and calling. but not a single lead turned up. no tips, no clues and no kenya. >> we were just trying to be strong because we don't want to think negative or anything. we had a lot of thoughts. i don't know, maybe we shouldn't have done that. >> reporter: have done what? >> going out to -- you know, we were just 19, we were not 21. >> reporter: and you should have looked after her. >> yeah. she wasn't with me, because i know if she would have been with me, she would have been safe. >> reporter: even her sister kim with whom kenya texted constantly hadn't heard a word. but she did get a call from kenya's boyfriend who had been
talking to kenya's worried friends. >> he was like, have you seen your sister? i was like, no. he said, have you talked to her? i was like, no. he said, well, she's missing. and i said, shut up, this isn't funny. tell me the truth, where is she? he said, you need to call the police and file a missing persons report. and then i called my mom. >> i called my sister and said, maybe it's a joke. my sister got very worried and said, i don't think it's a joke. >> when i got my call from my daughter kim and she said she had not heard anything from her that day, that's when i went into high alert. >> reporter: but when tony called kenya's friends, they weren't exactly straight with him about their underage barhopping the night before in those lodo nightclubs. >> it was very, very confusing because these girls were -- they were not telling me the truth about what they were doing or where they were at because they
were covering their asses. >> reporter: so tony turned amateur detective and was finally able to confirm that kenya had spent the evening not with her close friends but with two other girls she barely knew. and -- >> reporter: she had left her purse, her phone, her i.d. and all that stuff in the bar. >> reporter: -- her stuff. kenya never went anywhere without it, especially her cell phone. and she certainly wouldn't just leave it with two people she hardly knew. >> something was very wrong. something was wrong. >> reporter: the night after kenya was last seen here in lodo, one of the girls she was drinking with showed up at her house to drop off her belongings. kenya was happily dancing until about 1:00 in the morning with some guy, she said, and then she disappeared. they looked for her and couldn't find her. when the bar closed, they took her purse and cell phone and just kind of assumed that kenya would get home on her own. somehow. >> i was looking through her
text messages from the day before, and these conversations she was having with her friends, about this is where we'll hook up at. >> reporter: the phone showed that kenya stopped sending texts about 11:00 p.m. of course, her phone kept receiving texts all night. >> her boyfriend was texting, hey, where you at? you being good? you're not texting me. >> reporter: all kenya's friends asked, where was she? >> then there was a dead area. and the next text that came in was about 7:00 p.m. that night. >> reporter: but this one? this one jumped off the screen and was just plain weird. >> the message said, hey, this is travis, the guy with the creepy white bear and smiley face. did you get home okay? >> reporter: travis? who was travis?
nobody in kenya's circle of friends had heard of anybody named travis. >> i kept calling that number but they didn't answer. >> reporter: at this point the mysterious travis in the creepy white van was the only lead in their daughter's disappearance. they filed a missing persons report, but it was too soon, the police told them, to start an investigation. so alone, they panicked. >> we were like chickens with our heads cut off. we didn't know what to do first, so we just tried to figure out what do we got to do. >> reporter: then one terrifying day later, the mysterious travis finally returned tony's call. and travis had some rather stunning news about kenya's whereabouts and just who she might be with. coming up, tony on a mission that would leave his wife paralyzed with fear. >> i grabbed a .9-millimeter pistol, i packed it in my waist,
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always together, always talking, texting, facebooking. at first when the messages suddenly stopped -- >> i didn't really take it seriously. like i didn't really think she was going to be gone that long. >> reporter: but after 48 long hours -- what's that like, that feeling? >> the feeling of being, like, desperate to know where your sister is because that was not only my best friend. that was my sister, that was my other half. she was everything to me. >> reporter: that second night after kenya vanished, there was this call from a total stranger
named travis. >> hello? travis called me back about 8:00 p.m. >> reporter: the guy that left the rather odd text message on kenya's phone to see if she had gotten home safely from the nightclub. >> he told me the story. i asked if she needed help because she seemed really drunk and really out of it, so i said, i better help her. so she got in my van. >> reporter: travis told kenya's dad that as he was driving her home, she asked to stop at a gas station for cigarettes. but there something strange happened. she met another guy who said he would take her home. and so, said travis, he left them there. >> reporter: that's the last he saw her. >> that's what he said, that's the last he saw her. i got off the phone and i said to myself, that's the most fantastic story i ever heard. not one word he told me made any sense to me. >> reporter: tony called the denver police to report all that, but was told, remember, that the cops couldn't open an
investigation because kenya hadn't been missing long enough. >> i'm pissed. i'm sitting there saying, i can't believe this. so i took matters into my own hands. i called travis back and i said, travis, i got some questions i want to ask you. tell me again where you last saw her at. he said, i was at this conoco station. i said, tell you what, why don't you meet me there. i told him, i'm on my way. >> i said, oh, my god. >> i grabbed a .9-millimeter pistol, i packed it in my waist and i told her, i'm on my way to meet this guy. maria was down on her hands and knees literally, begging me, tony, don't do this. don't go down there. this is dangerous. this don't sound right. i told her, i got to go. they're not going to do anything. i got to go. >> i got the phone and i called 911. >> reporter: tony roared over to that conoco station, nerves on
edge, gun close to hand expecting, what? a violent confrontation? a dangerous standoff? a weirdo? it was none of those things. travis forbes was there, all right, patiently waiting, and he looked just fine. not scary at all. >> he was very thin, blond hair, blue eyes, good-looking guy. my first impression of him was, you know, he looks like a decent enough guy if you have somebody to pick up your kid and help them out, you know. >> reporter: seemed like a nice guy. >> yeah. >> reporter: because maria called 911, the denver police were at the gas station, too, so the cops, not tony, did most of the talking with travis. >> he told them that same story that he told me on the phone and it was very consistent. the story he told them matched exactly. i told the officer, man, everything he told you just don't sound right. it just don't sound right. >> reporter: it didn't sound right to the cops, either. but they had nothing to hold travis on. he had been cooperative, forthcoming, concerned for
kenya, so they let him go. as the meeting wrapped up, travis sidled up to tony and started talking. he was telling me, i promised i would take care of her, i wish i could have followed through on what i done, i feel responsible for this, i wish i could have done more. >> reporter: travis seemed sincere. his story, though strange, was consistent. maybe he was telling the truth. and that man kenya met at a gas station had abducted her. >> i stuck out my hand and said, i appreciate it. we shook hands. when we shook hands, it was like an earthquake was going through my feet. his body wasn't shaking, there was no quivering, but i felt that shake. i looked at it and i knew i was shaking the hand of the last person that had seen kenya alive. there was no doubt in my mind. i knew it at that instant. >> reporter: you believed as of that moment that she was dead? >> yes. >> coming up, was he right?
they were about to come across a disturbing clue. >> reporter: he was determined to erase something. >> everything. everything. >> when "deadly connection" continues. ♪ sometimes you gotta tear it all down ♪ ♪ to make it beautiful ♪ ♪ you gotta tear it down ♪ you gotta tear it down challenge the need for such heavy measures with olay. regenerist micro-sculpting serum for firmer skin in 5 days. pretty heavy lifting for such a lightweight. [ female announcer ] olay regenerist.
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friends one week ago. >> reporter: kenya's disappearance was big news in denver. >> she was last seen wearing a black skirt, black jacket and red high-heeled shoes. >> reporter: kenia's family was frantic, desperately hoping she was still alive. >> i would get down on my knees and pray to god. bring kenia home, please. >> reporter: her friends kept looking, hoping someone would come forward with a clue. >> we just kept putting flyers up everywhere. we had to do it. she was our friend. >> reporter: and got nowhere. >> we had to be strong and just pray for the best. >> reporter: but by now, family and friends were not alone in the search for kenia. a veteran denver police detective named nash gerlai started looking, too.
to say detective gerlai is imposing is perhaps an understatement. looks more like a character from the sopranos but hates when children go missing. >> i wanted to find her. i wanted to give her family closure. i wanted to give the city of denver closure. i was determined to bring her home. i was determined to bring her home. >> reporter: also assigned to the case was deputy d.a. kerry lombardi. >> we had to do something. time was of the essence because they were still hoping she was alive. >> reporter: they focused first on the good samaritan, the guy who had given kenia a ride. he was 41, they discovered, had a rap sheet of theft and drugs, but now he had a business in denver delivering gluten-free bars.
>> travis seemed friendly. he wanted to have a business. he launched into granola bars, which i thought was a great idea. they didn't exist in the marketplace, not the way he was making them. >> reporter: travis could bake but he wasn't the best businessman. he often was in debt, sometimes missed deliveries and deadlines. one day he came to work and seemed a little frazzled and told monica about his odd encounter the night before. >> he said, i gave some girl a ride and she's missing, she's gone. i thought, well, that's kind of strange. whatever. >> reporter: then a few days later, monica's bakery was crawling with cops. >> when the police showed up, i thought, wow. that must be that missing girl. >> reporter: detectives looked around, even shot this video of the place, but they didn't find much. travis was there, so they took him downtown for questioning. >> travis, this is detective gerlai. >> reporter: he's a talker.
>> very, very charming, very manipulative. >> i never met her before then. >> reporter: and talk travis did, reciting the very same story he told tony lee about picking up a lost and distressed kenia downtown, then stopping for cigarettes at that gas station where she met another man who said he would take her home. >> she put his arm through his arm while they were sitting there smoking. and they spoke french. and they walked off and that's it. that was the last -- that was it. then i went home. >> that's the last you see her? >> yes. >> reporter: travis was cool, calm, even contrite about leaving kenia with that strange fellow at the gas station. >> if she had made the choice to go back home or to get back in, i would have taken her home. if i had felt any sort of weirdness about her being with
that guy, i would have done something. >> he's really worried about this whole investigation, about this missing girl. but we believe him. he didn't do anything. >> reporter: in fact, there was no evidence travis did anything wrong. he certainly wasn't a suspect, barely a person of interest. he even had an alibi for his whereabouts after he dropped off kenia. >> he said he had gone to his girlfriend's house. at the time that we knew she had disappeared. and then his girlfriend came in, but she supported his statement. >> reporter: of course they let him go. had to. but what about that mysterious man travis said he left kenia with at the gas station? >> we couldn't find him. he was gone. >> reporter: wow. >> we sent out bulletins, we put it on the news, and we didn't get anybody to come forward and say, yeah. i know this guy. >> reporter: but d.a. lombardi did get a search warrant for travis' cargo van to see if
there were any clues. inside it reeked of bleach. >> to the point where if you spray something on a ceiling, a roof, and you spray it so much it drips down, that's how much bleach he sprayed on this van. >> reporter: he was determined to erase something. >> everything. everything. so we're going through his van, we're taking off doors, we're vacuuming, we're crawling underneath it. >> reporter: the van, for the most part, was spotless. except for something odd that caught the cop's attention. >> we found some weeds underneath, we found some dirt, some dust, different things. >> reporter: what did that tell you? >> that he had been on a dirt road. at least, that van had. >> reporter: so d.a. lombard lombardi pored through some records to see where he was.
they learned he had been in keenesburg, about 40 miles east of denver. not exactly one of the stops along travis' granola bar delivery routes. >> we sent about 25 detectives up there looking in fields, running the gulches, talking to neighbors to see if they saw a white van. we were checking everything. >> reporter: but found nothing. >> nothing. >> reporter: but back at the bakery, another clue surfaced. on surveillance video, it showed travis forbes doing a lot more than baking granola bars. >> coming up, just what was he doing? >> that just seemed really strange. >> and then another piece of videotape. >> we were all watching and you lost. it's olive garden's 2 for $25.
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she got a surprise. it looked like he had been scrubbing. >> so as he's coming into the office with these gloves on his hands, it wasn't like little gloves you wear when you're handling food. they're cleaning gloves, rubber, pl playtex, the kind that are rubber that go up to your he believes. i thought, what in the world is he wearing those for? >> reporter: monica stopped the tape and called the cops who took a good look at the security system and found an intriguing
look at travis, this time with his granola bar cooler. >> he actually unloads the cooler, puts it on his cart and it's duct taped shut with black duct tape. he puts it in the freezer and there's employees walking around. >> the police asked me, did he store the cooler in the freezer? i said, no. he never puts it in the freezer. they have granola bars in it. they don't need to be frozen. that just seemed really strange. >> reporter: all that, the cleaning, the cooler moving, happened two nights after kenia went missing. so detective gerlai checked with the other employees to see what else travis was up to that evening. >> he burned some stuff in a barrel. we found that barrel down the alley at the other end of the parking lot. and monica poole told one of the detectives, hey, that's my grease barrel. what's it doing down there? >> reporter: travis claimed he
was using it to burn some moldy marijuana. the barrel was sent to the crime lab. >> we ran that for dna. we ran that for fingerprints. >> reporter: but nothing turned up. if there were any clues in that barrel, they had been burned. travis forbes, despite all of his suspicious behavior and his strange story, was still just a person of interest. >> people do weird things in their normal life. how do we know that he's not just a weird guy? >> reporter: and then a few days later, gerlai's investigation turned up more surveillance video which seemed to tell a whole new story, because there was kenia with another man entirely. this caught the two of them in the lobby of an apartment building near the club where kenia had been drinking. was she going up to his place? well, if she was, she didn't stay long, because a few minutes later, kenia showed up in yet
another surveillance video, weaving somewhat unsteadily across the lobby of a nearby hotel. the way kenia was walking caught the attention of d.a. kerry lombardi. >> i think from all the evidence, she was obviously very intoxicated. it was scary. she was someone you would look at and think, this was a victim waiting to happen. >> reporter: this, according to family and good friends, was not like kenia. she didn't drink to excess. she would never run off with a strange guy and leave her purse and phone and keys behind. in fact, when tony saw this video, he was convinced kenia wasn't drunk. something was done to her. >> i absolutely believe 100% that she was slipped a date rape drug. because everything she did in that club that night was against anything she's ever done before. >> reporter: gerlai tracked down the young man from the apartment lobby, and he admitted dancing with kenia at the club and showing her his loft. but she left right away, he said.
the video confirmed it. he was cleared. so that left only two possible suspects, the mysterious man at the gas station and travis forbes. and, apparently, travis was feeling the heat. >> man. >> reporter: so out of the blue, he decided to go public. >> you know, the truth is all we have. >> reporter: he went off camera with a denver police station. >> it's been two weeks? nobody has heard from her? there's been no trace of her? it's surreal. i don't even know what to think of it. >> since you're a person of interest, let me ask you this. did you do something with her? >> no. >> did you kidnap her? >> no. >> did you assault her? >> no. >> did you murder her? >> i did not. no.
and having that on you, having that energy on you is very stressful. >> reporter: detective gerlai was watching this, of course, but he focused as much on travis' answers as his actions. >> he lied. it was in his demean eademeanor in his body actions. it was all there. >> man. i'm sorry that i was indifferent, that i didn't think anything. i didn't think anything. i didn't think she would -- she was going to disappear. >> when the reporter asked him -- >> did you murder her? >> i did not, no. >> he says, no. >> reporter: then as the interview was wrapping up, travis seemed to remember every little detail of that night. had trouble recalling one small but rather critical fact. >> what's her name? >> kemia. >> kenia, yeah.
>> we were all watching and we lost it. that was the only name in town and i wanted to go talk to him about that interview. that was another time when she got down on her hands and knees and begged me not to go, and this time i didn't go. >> reporter: so tony and his family waited, let the investigation run its course, hoping, praying that kenia would walk in the front door safe and sound. and travis forbes remained free. not even aware, quite possibly, at what the detective and the d.a. were up to. >> we had a lot of conversations and we did a lot of warrants. we were poring through phone records, and they continued to interview people constantly, and we just were waiting for the one thing, something we could arrest him with. >> reporter: but even if they could arrest travis, first they had to find him. because not long after that tv
interview, travis forbes disappear disappeared. >> coming up, travis gone. >> i put out a teletype saying, if you find any bodies, give me a call. >> and then another surprise. >> my lieutenant said grab your search warrant for his dna. so i hop a plane that night. >> when "deadly connection" continues. poppable pieces of tender chicken breast seasoned with just the right amount of spice, but just for a limited time. new spicy chicken mcbites. the simple joy of spicy perfection. ♪ if we took the nissan altima and reimagined nearly everything in it? gave it greater horsepower and best in class 38 mpg highway...
alive before she disappeared. the man who had ramped up detective gerlai's suspicions, even though his actions didn't warrant an arrest. then kenia wasn't the only one missing. so was travis. >> i couldn't find him anywhere. i was scrambling to find him. i would put out a teletype on line for law enforcement saying, you find any bodies, give me a call. >> reporter: this guy was that dangerous in your mind? >> i was calling everybody. i wanted to find out where he was. >> reporter: days passed and a week. no sign of travis. detective gerlai was now working the case almost 24/7. even his wife was involved. >> there were nights where i would jump out of bed and it would scare her because i would jump out of bed and grab the phone and she would say, did you hear the phone ring? and i said, no, i'm leaving myself a message because i need
to do this. she said, you talk in your sleep about it. kenia's name or even travis' name. you're obsessed. >> reporter: kenia's family wasn't sleeping much, either. >> i thought that she might have been kidnapped and put in a basement, and, like, they weren't letting her get any contact with anyone. i had dreams and things. i felt like i still had that sister connection that she was here somewhere, needing me to come help her, to save her and bring her back home. >> reporter: were you thinking about it all the time? >> yeah. it's hard from going to talking to someone every day and then not being able to talk to them anymore. it, like, breaks your heart. >> something is seriously wrong here. >> reporter: kenia's father tony made himself a public fixture on local media.
but privately, he conducted his own, very lonely, investigation. >> i went dumpster diving. i was looking in trash cans for her body. up and down the alleys, all over. >> reporter: yet you couldn't tell maria. >> i couldn't tell her. i couldn't share what i was feeling because that early in would have removed the only thing that right now everybody had, and that one thing that everybody had was hope. i was hoping that she would pop up and say, here i am! but as time went by and she wasn't contacting anybody -- i knew it was bad. >> reporter: he also knew that the key to finding kenia was finding travis forbes. the denver police had no idea where travis was, whether he was in hiding here in town or had left the city, left the state, left the country.
he was just gone. there wasn't much they could do. he was a person of interest, but not officially a suspect. and then two weeks later, out of the blue, detectives got a call from austin, texas. >> and my lieutenant walked into the office and said, okay. and i said what? she said, austin pd just called our fugitives unit. we might have him in austin, texas. i said, what? >> reporter: travis had borrowed a car from an old girlfriend in colorado. when he did not return it, she filed a report. which might not have led to anything at all, but a town in austin with a little time on his hands checked out the license plate, first the report for the missing car and then travis forbes. >> so my lieutenant said, grab your search warrant for his dna
and head to texas. so i hop a plane that night. >> reporter: a few hours later, gerlai was face to face with travis forbes again. >> you know what, they sent me to texas because they think you're running to mexico. >> i'm not going to mexico. >> he would call me nash, i would call him trap. it was similar to you and i just talking. i wasn't confrontational with him. if he asked me a question, i gave him an honest answer. >> you didn't come all this way. >> actually, i did. >> reporter: gurule questioned him for more than three hours, but travis stuck to his original story.
>> reporter: so did she have sex with you? >> at this point, i refuse to answer. >> reporter: so travis refused to talk anymore, but he didn't have a problem giving his dna thanks to the warrant the detective brought from colorado. and though a stolen car charge hardly seemed enough to warrant extradition, it was, in the end, just enough. and a few weeks later, travis was back in a colorado jail. >> i didn't want him in texas, i wanted him here. i wanted to have access to him. >> reporter: where you can continue the conversation. >> absolutely. >> reporter: but detective gurule was in for a big surprise. slippery guy, that travis forbes. >> coming up, the story moves on to another chapter, a different city and another young woman. >> fort collins is a college town and it has a lot of young
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>> continuing now with our story. a pretty young woman has gone missing from a girls' night out in denver. detectives think they know who is responsible, a smooth-talking local named travis forbes. after months of trying, they finally got him in custody and are hoping he'll tell them what really happened. instead, they're about to have reason to worry about the young women of another city. again, keith morrison. >> reporter: travis forbes was right where they wanted him: behind bars. they were holding him on suspicion of stealing a friend's car, not for kenia monge's disappearance. but at least he was here, back in colorado. >> reporter: getting him back. how important was that to you? >> very important. i wanted to know where he was.
>> reporter: and you wanted him in your town? >> yes. >> reporter: detective nash gurule was hoping to coax travis to tell him the real story of what happened to kenia monge. by this time, kenia had been missing for several weeks. >> he was the only person. we had eliminated pretty much everyone else. >> reporter: but just as detective gurule was about to get enough evidence to lay a charge, he got a nasty little surprise. >> his friends dropped the charges on the stolen car. she was very adamant that he didn't do anything wrong. >> reporter: why did that happen? >> i would talk to her sometimes daily, and she was his biggest supporter. >> reporter: she wouldn't believe that he was a dangerous guy? >> absolutely not. not the travis forbes she knows. there is no way that he did anything to kenia. >> reporter: but here was the problem. without the stolen car charge, there was no way to keep travis in jail.
they had to let him go. deputy d.a. kerry lombardi was -- >> nervous. i was really worried about what he would do. it was very stressful because i really wanted to be able to find her, and we really wanted to get some evidence that we could hold him on. >> reporter: the police vowed to detective gurule that they would not lose him, not again. >> we put surveillance on him for a couple days, and he went up to that area in keenesburg. >> reporter: keenesburg, that little farm town an hour east of denver. >> he used a credit card, and i had his bank records. so i saw that he swiped it at this gas station, so we went up there and got the surveillance tape and it's him trying to get gas. >> reporter: this was not travis' first trip to keenesburg. remember, he was tracked here soon after kenia disappeared. so what was he doing here? had he brought kenia out here? was there a body hidden somewhere on the high plains?
detectives scoured the fields again and found nothing. and then gurule discovered travis was on the move again. this time he headed north, 60 miles up the highway to his hometown, a team of undercover cops on his tail. >> we found out he was going to go to fort collins to stay with his dad. fort collins is a college town and it has a lot of young women there, and they like to party. yeah, i was worried. >> reporter: it was now july 1st, exactly three months since kenia disappeared. and gurule had good reason to worry. >> our detectives are watching. he goes out to the bar district in fort collins and he's acting like a fool, jumping on people's cars, you know, raising -- just trying to get a lot of attention. >> reporter: so fort collins police, unaware that travis was the subject of a denver investigation, pulled him aside there in the bar district and
had a little talk with him. nothing serious, no charges. just conversation. >> after they finished contact with him, our detectives go up and say, hey, we're watching him. he's a person of interest on our case. you might have heard of the case, explained the case to them. they're like, okay, okay. i'll let everybody know. >> reporter: denver police kept an eye on travis, hoping he might lead them to kenia's body. but he stayed at fort collins, crashed at his grandparents' place. so for an already overstretched police department, a decision. >> he was pretty much keeping a low profile. so we pull our surveillance. >> reporter: they couldn't know, of course, couldn't know what was coming. fourth of july, fireworks lit up the fort collins sky. and then early the next morning at an apartment complex, a fire of a different sort altogether. >> we've kicked -- we just kicked the door in and we're screaming for somebody.
the up stairs is -- we're just calling for somebody to see if there's somebody in the apartment. >> reporter: oh, yes, there was someone in that building. and this much we can tell you. that someone was not travis forbes. >> coming up, who was it? and was there any link to kenia? >> finally he said, oh, my god. i get chills now talking about it because it was quite the moment. >> reporter: investigators about to piece together a deadly connection. [ female announcer ] melissa posts, "just started trying all the yoplait flavors!
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colorado police detective jacqueline shackley went over to investigate. >> when i got there, there was a burnt apartment building. >> reporter: lydia, 30 years old, the lone occupant of the burned apartment and now barely alive. >> she had been beaten severely and had jumped out the second floor window to escape the fire. the crew got there. they found her in the backyard. she got up and ran straight to the ambulance in the back. >> reporter: looking awful. >> looking awful. she had been beaten severely and she didn't have any clothes on. >> reporter: lydia, paramedics discovered, had also been raped. but that wasn't all that happened. >> when she got to the hospital, she suffered a massive stroke. it was because of her injuries she suffered the stroke. she was severely beaten, she was stomped. some of her injuries were indicative of, like, a high-speed car crash. >> reporter: lydia was air lifted to an intensive care hospital in denver. her sister esther got the news
and rushed to the hospital. >> she was unrecognizable. when i first saw her, i couldn't believe it was her. i would look at her and nothing looked like her. she has a tattoo on her calf. i knew it was her. >> reporter: lydia's condition was critical, quite possibly, even probably, terminal. the doctors induced a coma and in an attempt to keep her alive, stabilized her to treat her horrendous injuries. >> her jaw was crushed, and her eye sockets, and her wrist was broike broken, shattered. she had broken ribs, probably more than we even know. >> reporter: what's the emotion that comes with that? >> i didn't want to lose my sister. i wanted her in my life. what did we need to help her, to get her back to us? >> reporter: lydia was single, attractive. very popular. but now here she was raped and beaten, nearly burned to death in her own home.
>> when somebody is beaten that severely, it just sound ved ver personal. we thought for sure it was someone in her inner circle, that was very close. it had to be someone she knew. >> reporter: so detective shackley combed fort collins to talk to anybody she knew. >> we talked to her family, we talked to her friends, we talked to people she worked with, and crickets were chirping. >> reporter: contradicts werick chirping? >> crickets were chirping, and everybody said they loved her and they couldn't imagine this had happened to her. >> reporter: footprints, any forensic evidence all up in smoke, or destroyed by somebody else discovered in the apartment. >> he did a really good job cleaning up. he did quite the job with the bleach. >> reporter: bleach. the apartment still smelled of
it despite all the smoke. but in spite of all that bleach, they did find microscopic evidence that the attacker left behind: his dna. >> and the majority of that dna was under lydia's finger nails, so no doubt she put up a fight. >> reporter: she was trying to defend herself. >> yeah. >> reporter: now lydia was continuing that fight. odds not good. >> she was not out of the woods, is what the doctor kept telling us. every day i would ask him, are we out of the woods yet? no, we're not out of the woods yet, and out of the woods is life or death. the hardest thing is not knowing whether she was going to live or die, and if she was going to live, what kind of life was she going to have? >> reporter: then three days after the attack, still no suspects, no leads, detective shackley heard about the man police talked to just a few days before lydia's attack, the one who was acting up in the fort collins bar district.
and whaent thasn't that the man denver police had under surveillance? >> this possibly could be related. he's wanted tofor murder and he in fort collins. i don't know, but they wanted to hear about it. >> reporter: what did you think of that? >> i thought, thank goodness. we finally have something we can look into. >> reporter: detective shackley called detective gurule in denver. >> i laid out some of what had happened, the evidence we found. >> he used bleach on her, on the house. >> he was silent on the other end of the phone. then finally he said, oh, my god. >> she said, what do you think? and i said, i think it's him. >> i get chills right now talking about it because it was quite the moment. >> reporter: who was travis forbes? a serial offender hunting women? was he hunting another even now? the two detectives were convinced of it. but as badly as they wanted to lock him away, they just did not have sufficient evidence.
so travis was a freeman roaming fort collins at will and at night. coming up, a relentless investigat investigator. more and more worried he's been outwitted. >> i'm thinking to myself, is he that smart? is he that smart? >> when "dateline" continues. new kfc bites. freshly hand-breaded, big bites of 100 percent premium breast meat, seasoned in the colonel's original recipe. try 6 bites, a side and a drink for just $3.99. today tastes so good. use the points we earn with our citi thankyou card for a relaxing vacation. ♪ sometimes, we go for a ride in the park. maybe do a little sightseeing.
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>> we would say, lydia, you're doing great. you're healing. you just rest and heal. that's all you have to do. we'd play classical music for her. we'd talk over her so she knew we were there. we just wanted that ever presence for her. >> reporter: do you think she was aware of any of that? >> i think deep inside she knew her family was fighting for her. >> reporter: as if worry about lydia's fragile condition wasn't enough, her family also feared the attack wasn't over. >> it was really scary. and since we didn't know who had done this, i kept looking out of the hospital room and seeing if someone would come to finish the job. and so we had to keep her completely anonymous in the hospital. we had a code that we had to say to go see her. only family members and only ones that were listed. >> reporter: you were always kind of looking over your shoulder. >> definitely. >> reporter: lydia's family was quite unaware that police did have a prime suspect, travis forbes, who was also a suspect in the disappearance of a girl
lydia's family had never heard of, kenia monge. >> the similarities were definitely the bleach. i don't know what it is about forbes but he has an obsession with bleach. we actually heard that from past girlfriends as well, that he would obsessively clean his house with bleach, and there was bleach in kenia's case as well. the fact they were both dark haired, around the same age. it was chillingly similar. >> reporter: the frightening fact was the suspect was still out on the street somewhere at large, potentially tracking his next victim. it would stay that way unless detectives could prove that the attacks were both the work of travis forbes. there was one possibility and really only one. sitting at the denver police crime lab were several swabs of travis' dna which detective gurule had obtained when the two had talked in texas. >> we knew that to compare what
we had gotten from lydia tillman. >> reporter: she had been sprayed. was there any dna left? >> it's amazing how resilient dna is. >> reporter: so on five days after lydia's attack, the dna found under her fingernails and the sample taken of forbes were taken to the denver crime lab to see if they matched. >> i couldn't sleep. it didn't matter, i didn't care. we had technicians at the colorado bureau of investigation who had no necessary buy-in in this case but they were working around the clock as well because they knew what a big deal this was. >> reporter: 70 miles away in denver, detective gurule was anxiously waiting for those results. but he was angry. >> at myself. >> reporter: why? >> what could i have done to prevent this.
did i miss something that could have kept him there. did i have something concrete to keep him there? what did i miss? i threw that around in my head. >> reporter: you took this personally. >> this one i did. and i'm thinking to myself, is he that smart? is he that smart? >> reporter: and now forbes was out here somewhere. friday night, dark now. it was warm in fort collins, a college town, remember. in the old town bar district, young people gathered around favorite watering holes, plenty of young women, carefree, drinking, celebrating a weekend unaware, unworried. but this time the police were watching because they were very worried. >> we had the surveillance set up on him over the weekend. we were not going to let him out of our sight. so we had teams that were rotating while we were waiting so that we could actually make an arrest. >> reporter: all weekend surveillance teams followed forbes as he cruised the nightclub district.
>> he had a bottle of whiskey he had been carrying around with him all night. he didn't go in any of the bars. he basically walked around and -- >> reporter: he was trolling. >> that's a good way to put it. >> reporter: then one of the other cops found forbes walking home alone. one of the cops approached him, asked him a question or two. travis gave a fake name. called himself travis kennedy. the officer let him go, but travis did not go home. and before very long, he began following a second woman. she appeared to be drunk. travis closed in. >> they're like, this guy is too much of a danger. we have to figure out a way to get him off the street. they sended up arresting him for false reporting, for giving a false name. >> reporter: in fact, shackley's husband was the one who put him away. >> reporter: what was it like
when the two of you got together to compare notes. >> it was emotional. it was an emotional phone call. he called me -- i'm getting emotional now -- that he had taken him into custody and he was off the streets. just some closure to five days of really scary for our community and our home. >> reporter: but there was a catch. when the cops arrested forbes for giving a false name, it was only a misdemeanor. without some new charge, he would be out on bail in no time. >> coming up, a determined detective triggers a stunning break in the case. >> yes.
bureau of investigation crime lab was a beehive of activity. they were working around the clock comparing the dna of lydia tillman's attacker to that of travis forbes to see if they matched. two hours away in fort collins, she couldn't sit still. >> i kept looking at the phone, waiting for the detective to call me. >> reporter: travis forbes sitting in the denver county jail was due to be released soon. very soon. >> he was given a bond and was about to bond out at 10:30 on monday night. >> reporter: the weekend was over. monday ticked by. >> it's a long process. it's not like a tv show where they do it in 40 minutes and you have a hit. i knew it would take a while, i was just praying it would happen earlier. >> reporter: then just minutes before travis' release, a call from the cbi. >> we have a hit. >> reporter: wow.
>> yes. >> reporter: the man who attacked lydia tillman was, the dna confirmed, travis forbes. >> it was the biggest adrenaline dump ever, and of course i called detective gurule in tears. we did it, he's charged, he's in jail, he's not getting out. >> i was relieved that now he's going to be in jail and he won't be able to hurt nobody. now we know where he's at so i don't have to be searching for him. >> reporter: word of travis' arrest also traveled quickly to kenia monge's family. >> i was shocked. i knew that he would eventually hang himself, but i didn't think he would go out and try and murder again this soon. and i was shocked. we were shocked. >> yeah. >> reporter: but they still didn't know what happened to kenia. quickly, the lee family called a news conference and delivered a message to travis forbes. >> if anybody is going to relay
any messages to him, tell him, or if you guys talk to him, tell him we got just one question: where is kenia? that's it. >> reporter: but travis wasn't talking anymore, so lee offered a radical idea. >> i called assistant d.a. lombardi. i said, make a deal. >> reporter: you wanted a deal? >> i don't care what it is. i said, i don't care, you can take it down to manslaughter. i didn't care. just make a deal. we just want kenia. >> we really couldn't. we were getting there. we were still investigating. what i really wanted was for -- tell us where she was so we could give closure to this family. >> reporter: but travis was now facing an attempted murder charge for the assault on lydia, and as his case started working its way toward trial, he sat silently, mute in his cell. especially when detective shackley paid him a visit. >> he was looking at me like a caged animal.
his eyes were huge. it was really creepy. obviously i wanted to talk to him. i wanted to get an interview with him and see if he would tell me something, and he immediately said, i'm not talking to you. get out of here. >> reporter: but across town, someone was communicating. after spending five weeks in icu, lydia tillman was transferred to a local rehab hospital, and a long, slow recovery began. >> hi, lydia. >> i showed her a video of my kids saying hello to her, because they missed their aunt lydia. >> i want you to get better soon. >> she got to the part where my four-year-old started to talk and she laughed when he said, hi, lydia. the first time i got to see her laugh, and i went, she's got memory, she can laugh. >> reporter: but detective gurule's murder case against travis forbes and his search for kenia monge had both stalled nearly five months after kenia
vanished and still no sign of her. but one day he got a call from the crime lab requesting another dna sample of travis for the fbi. >> i drove up there to get his dna. i walked in, laid down my recorder. he didn't want to talk to any of the detectives in fort collins, anywhere. but he always talked to me. >> why are you here? >> i'm here to serve a warrant on you. >> reporter: after the next two hours, like a couple old college chums, the two shot the breeze about philosophy and books and religion, and of course kenia's case, about which travis remained evasive. >> i said, i've been here a long time, travis. i'm done. i'm done playing chess with you. you move one way, i move another way. i'm coming for you, i'm telling you that. the next time you see me, i'll be charging you for murder. i said, what do you want out of this?
what exactly do you want out of this? >> i want to be out without being labeled a sex offender? >> what else? >> that's it. that's it. >> you'll confess to everything if you go to prison without being labeled a sex offender. is that what you're saying? >> yes. yes. that's what i'm saying. >> reporter: detective gurule was stunned. travis wanted to cut a deal? gurule used a little reverse psychology to make sure he meant it. >> i told him, i think you're full of it. i don't think you're going to do this. i think you're going to back out, and i think you're spineless, and i think it's all about you. it's a game. i said, i think you're going to pull out. he says, no, i won't. i said, travis, if you do what
you say you're going to do, i'll be the first one to shake your hand. >> reporter: gurule knew that fort collins authorities would buy in, so all he needed now were the crossed t's and the dotted i's, the legal formalities. >> i left the jail, went out to my car and thought to myself, did i just hear this right or am i dreaming? i even played the recording back to myself. and i thought, wow. >> reporter: people just don't do that sort of thing. >> right. he's confessing to a murder without a body and without seeing the case. i've talked to my commanders and they said never in the history of this police department has that ever happened. ever. >> reporter: finally, after frustrating months of knuckle-biting tension, disappearances, dead end games of cat and mouse, detective
gurule was about to get the answers he was searching for. to rest up, gurule decided to take a few days off with his wife. >> we're driving out of the town and i get a call saying, he pulled out. >> coming up, was it all over or was there yet another surprise in store for investigators? >> he got out of the car and he let out this scream. it was a blood curdling -- it made me jump. this is living. that is not a real puppy. that's too small to be a real puppy. [ male announcer ] venza. from toyota.
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>> reporter: it was a long, tortorous weekend in the mountains for detective gurule. just hours earlier, he thought he had made a deal with lydia tillman's killer. but then he got the call that the deal was dead. >> i was devastated. devastated. i hung up the phone, and my wife looked at me. she said, are you okay? i looked at her and i'm crying. i said, there's nothing more i could do. i got him there, i led him there. i led him to the trough. >> reporter: gurule and his wife went on the trip, anyway, and for three long days he was left
twisting in the wind once again by travis forbes. kenia's family knew nothing of this, still holding out hope that she was somehow alive. >> every time i was driving down the street and i seen a skinny little black-haired girl, i can't tell you how many accidents i almost had trying to get around the corner to see who this little skinny black-haired girl is. there was still reports coming in of sightings of her. and you've got to turn in all these sightings because you don't know. >> reporter: but then something happened to travis forbes that weekend. he apparently had second thoughts about his own second thoughts. >> and when i got back on monday, i got a call and they said, deal's back on. it's being finalized. we should be able to go next week. >> reporter: sometimes taking a weekend away is quite profitable. >> yes. the weight of the world just got lifted from me. >> reporter: the deal with travis was quite straightforward. no death penalty, no sex crime
charges. and in exchange, he would give them a complete confession, what he did to kenia and lydia. and one more thing. he would show them exactly where kenia was. so on a humid morning of september 2011, forbes found himself in a procession of police cars on a country road northeast of denver. investigators had been here many times before, searching the fields near the farm town of keenesburg looking for kenia. but this day travis had solemnly promised he was going to show them. trailing a car behind travis was d.a. kerry lombardi, nervous, anxious and pessimistic. >> i was worried he wouldn't follow through. because i felt like he sort of liked this game, i thought. >> reporter: along the way, what were you thinking? >> will he do this, will he not, will something spook him? was this a big farce? i didn't even know if we were
going to the right place. >> reporter: travis was in the lead car which included dekt tif -- detectives nash gurule. >> he was sitting next to me and i had an air cast on my foot because i had a running injury. he looked down and said, what did you do to your foot? and i said, it's a stress fracture from running. >> reporter: that got travis talking about running, movies, food, all sorts of things. >> obviously we were talking about whatever he wanted to talk about to keep his cooperation, because i have to remember i have a monster sitting next to me and just playing it up. we had to get to that body. we wanted to know where she was and bring her home to her family. >> then we started getting closer, he starts getting a little more quiet. we drive out to the site next to a little grove of trees. >> reporter: then quite suddenly, no warning, something came over the cool and breezy travis forbes.
>> he got out of the car and his whole demeanor changed and he let out this scream, just this blood-curdling -- it made me jump. i wasn't expecting it at all. >> reporter: just as quickly, travis pulled himself together and pointed. >> he said, she's over there. so we walk over there and he's standing up on top of the hill, like in this little ravine, and he says, you're standing right on top of her. >> reporter: soon the digging began. >> and it was a very, very slow process. there was an anthropologist there. so then they finally got the dirt off of her and there she was, and it was pretty awful. i stood there and, of course, i had seen these beautiful pictures of her. there's this smiling image in your head of her having a good time and smiling, and then to
see that, it was very difficult. >> reporter: there was something else perhaps even more difficult that kerry lombardi had to do. >> i called tony lee and said they had found a body where he had told us she was, we had found something. >> i needed to let my family know before any of this hit the news. you can't prepare yourself or practice yourself or write down a speech for that day. i had to tell her. >> reporter: what was that like? >> that was the hardest thing i've ever done. >> reporter: she had been hanging on to hope. >> she had been hanging on to that hope. i had to pull that rug from under her. and she lost it. and there was nothing i could do for her because i had already lost it myself. >> reporter: then tony had to tell his children, kenia's little sister and brother.
>> the first question out of both of their mouths at different times, is she alive? and i had to tell them no. >> i just don't feel like it's fair that she was only there for a little bit of my life, she won't be able to see me grow up and get married and have kids, and i won't be able to see her grow up and get married and have kid. we just won't have that bond. >> reporter: but this most horrendous of days wasn't quite over. police still needed a complete confession from forbes on tape. >> we're driving back and i looked back at him and he goes, hey, nash. i told you i'd tell you where she was. are you happy you found her? are you happy? and i said, there's some questions that need to be answered, and i said, once those questions are answered, then
i'll be happy. all right, nash. i told you i would do it. i told you i would do it. and i said, yes, you did. >> reporter: detective gurule sat down with travis for one last interview. after five long months, out came the words he needed to hear. >> i killed her. i deny meid not mean to kill he. i didn't pull over to kill her. i didn't pull over to rape her. none of that was in my head. none of it was premeditated. >> reporter: but then it all came out. travis told them how he saw kenia on the street, how he raped her, how he stuffed her in his cooler, drove around with her in his van the whole day then stored her in the bakery freezer, burned her clothes and bleached out his vans.
then he buried her under cottonwood trees. >> after we were done with our interview, i stuck out my hand and i said, thanks. he stood up, shook my hand and said, i told you i would do it. i said, you did. he says, you just wouldn't give up. and i looked at him and i said, you're right. >> reporter: later that day, travis also confessed to the attempted murder of lydia tillman. soon he would be sentenced separately for both crimes but there was one last surprise coming. something no one saw coming, least of all travis forbes. >> coming up, a courtroom stunned. >> to do what she did and to endure what she went through, i couldn't imagine. she's a superhero in my eyes. >> and coming up sunday on "dateline," when her husband was murdered, she was the prime
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either home or in a grave someplace. >> thank god we have answers. not the answers we want, but we do have answers now. and it still hurts. >> reporter: but as one family mourned, another had something remarkable to celebrate. lydia tillman was coming home. because of the stroke, speech was still practically impossible, but the fact she was walking at all, truly amazing. some kind of miracle to dr. rebecca bearden. >> i believe lydia shouldn't have survived that day. she went through so much, and she probably shouldn't have made it, but she did, and it was because of her determination and her joy. >> reporter: soon after that, a travis forbes sentencing hearing, lydia met kenia's family. >> i would look at lydia and wish it was kenia.
i hate to say that, but i'm glad she was able to escape the monster. >> yeah. >> it was overwhelming, you know, to see the amount of heifer strength and her will to live, you know, and what she did during her court proceedings on the day that he was sentenced for what he did to her. >> reporter: what she did that day is simply amazing. hard to believe. sitting just feet away from the man who raped her, smashed her face and body, doused her with bleach, set her on fire, lydia tillman struck a blow against evil. she gave travis a gift. she forgave him. since she was unable to speak herself, her father read her statement for her, saying that to forgive is easier than holding anger. >> there wasn't a dry eye in that courtroom, including the judge. it's freeing for her, and i
understand that, and i did the same. because we're not going to live in that hatred, in that state of mind that doesn't allow you to recover and to heal. >> she's amazing. to do what she did and to endure what she went through, i couldn't imagine. i couldn't imagine. she is -- she's a superhero in my eyes. >> reporter: and then there was one more surprise. no, not travis' sentence, life in prison. that was merely a formality. it was another gift, this time from kenia to lydia. >> i felt very strong inside me that kenia was telling me, mom, give her that ring. i was wearing herrin ring.
she was saying, mom, give it to her. and i gave it to her and she was so happy. she said thank you, and she was holding me. and the moment i was holding her, it was like i was holding kenia. >> we are related in tragedy. we've got a connection with each other, fortunately, for the rest of our lives because of travis. >> reporter: kenia's family built a memorial here on the high plains where kenia was found. and they devote themselves now to spreading awareness and warnings and help. >> the story of kenia is what has created the kenia monge foundation. we go to the families of the missing and reach out to them, and they are very grateful, and it actually keeps me and maria sane. >> reporter: and lydia tillman? we saved this surprise for last.
today lydia is still working very hard to recover. >> try this one. >> reporter: and to speak. >> stimuli. >> stim-u-li. >> yes. try yesterday. lydia has rocked my world. >> reporter: dr. jill armor. >> i think lydia has the ability to make a full recovery, and i think she's tenacious and perseveres enough that she may just well do that. >> reporter: and so a proper introduction. here just ten months after the attack that nearly took her life is lydia tillman in her own words. >> reporter: people were amazed you survived at all, frankly. >> yeah. i am amazed, too. >> reporter: what has been, in
the long recovery process, the most difficult thing to do? >> relearning how to speak was still difficult. >> reporter: yes. >> i am trying to find a balance between my ambitions and my still healing body and brain. >> reporter: yeah. so where were you in the process of getting better when travis went to court to plead guilty and be sentenced? >> i am -- was just out of rehab.
>> rarely i get mad. i believe travis forbes was acting out of fear and hatred. i choose love and peace over fear. and i won. >> reporter: so she did. and then she said, with that big infectious smile on her face, that she had brought a gift for me. >> it's a bracelet. it's -- >> reporter: may i open it?
>> yes. it's an acronym for my name. it says live your days inspired anew. >> which spells lydia. it was a sad day for kenia's family. for many more families i suspect may have been victimized by his past behavior. and then from that darkest place came the indomitable lydia who forgave, who won, who told us live your days inspired anew.